FDA approves second oral COVID-19 treatment

This image provided by Pfizer in October 2021 shows the company's COVID-19 Paxlovid pills. U.S....
This image provided by Pfizer in October 2021 shows the company's COVID-19 Paxlovid pills. U.S. health regulators on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021 authorized the first pill against COVID-19, a Pfizer drug that Americans will be able to take at home to head off the worst effects of the virus.(Pfizer via AP)
Published: Dec. 23, 2021 at 5:48 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 23, 2021 at 5:49 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - There are now two new pills to help fight COVID-19. The FDA approved Merck’s anti-viral pill on December, 23. It also recently approved Pfizer’s Paxlovid under an emergency use authorization.

Dr. Costi Sifri, an epidemiologist with the University of Virginia, says the hospital system is seeing a rapid ascend in COVID-19 cases.

“Cases basically have doubled since November 1st. So we’re back to the same peak, of about 150,000 cases a day,” Dr. Bill Petri of UVA said.

Paxlovid was created in part to help overworked hospital systems. Now more people can recover from COVID-19 without filling a bed. “It’s used to prevent hospitalizations, that’s where it’s benefit was seen,” Sifri said.

It’s not yet available in Charlottesville or surrounding counties.

“It takes right now about 6 to 9 months to produce this new medicine, and so it’s going to be in very very limited supply probably for the next one to two months,” Dr. Petri said.

Once it is available, there may still be some barriers.

“If you’re young and healthy and don’t have a significant need for hospitalization, you won’t be eligible,” Dr. Sifri said.

People over the age of 12 that are at risk of especially severe illness are eligible for the pill.

According to Pfizer’s clinical trials, it’s 90% effective in preventing death and hospitalization if taken within the first 3 to 5 days of illness.

Before the pill reaches Charlottesville and surrounding areas, Dr. Reid Adams, UVA’s chief medical officer, says UVA Health is gearing up for any heightened COVID-19 cases.

“We’ve stockpiled PPE for instance, so that we have plenty of protective gear for all of our team members, for our patients, we continue to recruit staffing to be able to maintain the beds that we have available,” Adams said.

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